By Marnita Coenraad
3rd Grade, Riverbend Elementary School
As I began my Artful Teaching journey last year, I was excited to find how seamlessly I was able to integrate Artful Thinking routines into my literacy instruction. I found that Reading Portraits added depth of knowledge to our reading of biographies, and art seem to provide an entry point for struggling readers. This year that trend continued with our study of tableau. As I became more familiar with the routines, I branched out and used them in science and social studies as well. But even as I experimented with these new content areas, I found that bringing the routines into my math instruction was more challenging. I made it a goal for the spring semester to bring Artful Teaching to my math lessons.
For each new math lesson, I create a guided notes sheet. These notes serve as guide through the lesson, as well as a reference that can use when completing their independent practice or homework. I decided that I would include a thinking routine at the beginning of each math lesson. I hoped that this would stimulate thoughtful discussions and promote student discovery of mathematical concepts.
The following is an introduction to geometry lesson. I used the thinking routine “See, Think, Wonder” to help students discover characteristics of open/closed shapes, polygons, and special quadrilaterals.
1. Students started by looking at groups of open and closed shapes. I did not give them any indication as to why shapes were grouped in this way. Students then completed at least one entry for See, Think, and Wonder. I did not ask students to write in complete sentences for this exercise. You can see that students entered the lesson with varying degrees of prior knowledge.
2. After some direct instruction in open versus closed figures, students repeated the thinking routine with two more groups of figures. I was happy to see that immediately began experimenting with the new vocabulary introduced during the lesson. Again, some students were already familiar with geometry vocabulary, while others were engaging with it for the first time.
3. After direct instruction in naming polygons and their parts. We repeated “See, Think, Wonder” for a final time. Students again used the new vocabulary in their observations and inferences. Several students noticed that some of the shapes were line drawings, or “random” shapes, and some were “real,” meaning photographs. This breaking into two groups was an unexpected result of my having two groups in the previous two routines. I had hoped that students would notice they all had four sides.
Although there were a few misconceptions along the way. I was happy that students were able to construct their own definitions for open shape, closed shape, and polygon. With help, we also discovered the characteristics of special quadrilaterals like rectangles, parallelograms, and trapezoids. I have taught similar geometry lessons that are vocabulary rich, and it can be difficult to get students to engage with the new words and their meanings. Teaching this lesson through the Artful Thinking routine encouraged students to construct their own definitions and provided a safe space to try out their new vocabulary terms. Since this lesson, we have used the art of Kandinsky and Mondrian to identify and name 2-dimensional figures. Students are highly motivated to find and share the shapes they see.
I am continuing to experiment with using art in my math instruction. I recently used Navajo blankets to review symmetry and introduce area. While arts integration in math does not come as naturally to me as in other subjects, I am enjoying the challenge. More importantly, I see students participating in class who are usually reticent to volunteer in math discussions. Since we teach art terms throughout elementary, I have found that students are comfortable analyzing and discussing art. The consistency of thinking routines coupled with the familiarity of art has made math more accessible and enjoyable for many of my students.
Observations by Becky Engstrom
3-5th Grade TED Specialist, Gastineau and Harborview Schools
As a specialist serving intermediate students grades 3 through 5, I have always rotated language arts units on a 3-year basis to be sure students are offered an eclectic mix of content supported by lessons to improve reading and writing skills. One of my favorite units has always been an art biography unit. Students would do research on an artist collecting pertinent facts by taking notes. They would use the notes to write a three paragraph report on their chosen artist. They would write haiku poetry about their artist and the art work. They would create a piece of work combining their artist’s style and beliefs with their own, then they would support the piece they created with a description explaining their reasoning behind their work of art. All these parts are then mounted on a poster board which has always made for a beautiful display.
After signing up and committing myself to the study of Artful Teaching, the first thing I wanted to do was change this unit to create more opportunities for authentic artful thinking using a variety of thinking routines from different thinking dispositions. I experimented with a selected artist to experience different routines that would help students when they finally selected the artist they wanted to study. I chose Frederic Remington to learn and model different thinking routines. We did a verbal See/Think/Wonder in table groups with different Remington pieces, then used the same pieces to do a verbal Beginning/Middle/End. We experienced Step Inside with a work from Remington. We studied desert vocabulary (mesa, plateau, canyon, butte, saguaro, ocotillo, etc.) and used that vocabulary to create tableaus.
ON THEIR OWN
After students selected their artist, gathered notes, and wrote their report, I selected a piece from their artist, printed it out, and students wrote their See/Think/Wonders on the printout.
Students also selected a piece from their artist that they wanted to attempt to turn into a Tableau (step inside). The student who selected their piece would become the tableau director and had to put people in position until they were satisfied with the outcome. It gave me a good understanding of which students had excellent communication skills and which students needed improvement. It also helped me see the students who noticed many details and the ones who did not. I would have to bring focus to areas in the piece with questions… “What direction are they looking?” “What is their hand doing?” The amount of information I received from this one activity was a true eye-opener!
Students also extended their thinking by creating a piece of art that connected their own thinking to the artist they were studying.
CRITIQUING AN ARTIST
Students wrote a research paper on the artist they picked. The last paragraph was their opinion of the artist they selected. I especially enjoyed reading these paragraphs.
NEW PROJECTS DISPLAYED
Although I believe the old poster board displays were more visually pleasing and beautiful, the new displays showed more artful thinking; the most beautiful moment to catch is proof of a brain in action. Whereas the old displays had more writing skills involved, the new supported the process by which learning took place. It was inspiring to watch the students make incredible observations. To listen to the details noticed to create the tableaus was a treat. To read their observations of the students’ chosen artist was deeply satisfying. Teaching became more passive, as if I handed the wheel to the students because they were ready to drive. It’s scary, and wonderful at the same time.
by Mareta Weed
Auke Bay Elementary, 3rd Grade
There is professional development, and then there are the classes you sit through and can’t wait to try the concepts out with your students. That is how I felt when I attended Richard Jenkins' Super Powered Stories Workshop on a sunny Saturday in March.
Like a lot of classes my group of third graders love to draw, but getting them to write can be a struggle. That morning, while creating my own super hero, I could definitely see how engaged my students would be and I could just imagine the backstories that they would write to go with their created heroes.
The problem was, we had just finished a narrative unit and we needed to do some informational writing. Wasn’t I always reminding students that expository text could be fiction? An idea was born. Students could practice their sentence writing by creating a paragraph about their hero, and then create a diagram labeling the different parts of their hero. The end result would be a poster. I was ready for Monday; well, sort of.
As I had been absent the previous Friday, my students had attended their own class, a kids version of Richard Jenkins' lesson, without me. Would students still have their work from Friday? Probably not. How much would they remember from their class? If we repeated the lesson would they be bored? “But Mrs, Weed, we’ve done this before”. I decided to have students start from scratch, with the expectation if they liked one of the characters they created before, they could create a final draft of that character.
Monday started off without a hitch with students telling me what they had remembered from the following Friday. We got started with a warm up, and I waited for the whine, “but we did this Friday!”
It never happened and believe me, I was prepared for it.
I didn’t even hear it when we started to talk about creating the rough drafts of our heroes, going through the steps that students had gone through with Richard three days prior. Students were engaged the whole time. Yes, I got the occasional reminder about how to do the next step, but my class was really into about the entire process. I did model and go over concepts a little faster then I would have done with a class that had never seen it before. Overall, the class kept up; when they were done with their heroes, they worked on their villains.
A collection of JSD teachers' arts integration classroom experiences